One of the benefits of working full time at the Rhode Island School of Design was that you and your family got to take classes in the Continuing Education Department for free. You only needed to pay the lab fee, if there was one. Computer class never had a lab fee, but you might need to pay a few bucks for materials that the class provides to the student. RISD also gave this benefit to those who taught classes in CE.
Over the years, my family took advantage of that benefit, and we were grateful for it. My kids took classes during school breaks or on Saturday mornings for many years. I taught woodworking classes on Saturday mornings, so I would drop them off before heading over to the woodshop.
The classes I really enjoyed taking were in the jewelry department. They were usually taught during the week in the evening. I took all of the beginning classes, where you learn the basics, such as filing and soldering, making hollow vessels and an enameling class. The instructors were usually RISD graduates and they were really generous with their time and energy.
Similar to woodworking, you gain a new appreciation for handmade jewelry once you’ve been in a class and you realize how much time and effort goes into making a piece of jewelry. Sometimes, when I am buying a handmade piece of jewelry, I wonder how the maker can charge so little.
The pieces I enjoyed making the most were pendants. Usually, I would work out a design in copper or brass, and when I had all of the problems solved with the design, I would make it in silver. I do the same thing with wood. I’m a firm believer of making prototypes in an inexpensive material first.
This pendant was a happy accident, and it didn’t take any time at all to make. I was in the shop yesterday morning working on my bench. I sliced the end off an old fir timber when I noticed the beautiful design at the center of a knot. I popped it out, sanded it to follow the natural growth rings with a bevel on the back, and drilled a hole for the jump ring. I wiped it down with some denatured alcohol then added a coat of boiled linseed oil for the picture. I still need to experiment with a final coat that will really make the colors pop. Maybe something glossy. I’m open to suggestions.
I made a few others in a matter of minutes. One piece I cut to about 1/32, so it is translucent, but I suspect I will need to protect it with bezel wire, as the wood is too thin and weak to hold the jump ring.